Beauty and the Beast: How CrossFit Taught Me They’re One in the Same

commodariBy Chelsea Commodari |

I remember the first time I called myself fat. I was 15 years old attending my first high school track meet. Thrown into the 400-meter sprint in brand new bun-hugging bikini bottoms, my thighs had been rubbing together for three hours.

Standing in lane three, I looked to my left and then to my right. Five size-0 sprinters surrounded me. I looked down and tried to see how red the insides of my legs were and all I could think about was finishing this race and getting out of this track uniform.

The gun sounded and we were off. I tried to focus on my coach’s advice given to me prior to the race: “85 percent for the first 300 yards and then I better see you fly.”

As my lungs collapsed within me, I crossed the finish line first and fell to the ground. My coach ran up, gave me a few pats on the back and said, “I guess those big legs came in handy, huh?”

Those words have been with me for 5 years — into every fitting room, onto every street. Me? Fat? It was all I could think about.

I started college three years later. I walked into my freshmen year in size-0 shorts and left a size 5. Freshmen 15 is not a joke people. Neither is freshman 23.


The first time I stepped into a CrossFit gym was two years ago. All I could tell from the research I conducted out of nervousness was that the sport combined weight training, gymnastics and aerobics all in one. All of the research in the world would not prepare me for the feat I was about to endure.

Three pull up rigs, kettle-bells and women with muscles shirts and tattoos. I didn’t know what I hoped to accomplish on that day — perhaps I was just praying to make it out alive.

The workout of the day, or in CrossFit lingo, the “WOD,” was called, “15 Days of Hell.” Imagine my excitement. A normal CrossFit class takes about an hour. It took me one hour and 23 minutes to complete the workout.

It took three weeks for me to stop looking around at the other women. It took four for me stop comparing my abilities to theirs. It took one month for me to stop wondering if other members were judging me. It took one year for me to do a pull up without an assisted band.

And here I am. I’ve been “CrossFitting” for two and a half years now. I can back squat 75 pounds over my body weight, and jump on a rig to bang out 50 kipping pull-ups.

Since CrossFit was founded in 2000, it has expanded its affiliated gyms from 13 in 2005 to over 9,000 today.

CrossFit is not a group of psychos running around throwing heavy weights above their heads, though most would beg to differ.

CrossFit is a group of athletes committed to being tough, physically and mentally. The athletes you find in a CrossFit gym are the people who continuously push themselves to conquer everything that holds them back, because they know that their weaknesses will be put to the test.

And as I’ve since learned, they aren’t concerned with what their bodies look like. They don’t stand in front of a mirror and wish their fat would melt away. They control what they can. They set goals. They never give up.


The women of CrossFit, whom I so quickly judged to be a band of misfits, have rubbed off on me. I watch them and I look up to them. I stopped idolizing the women on the cover of Vogue magazine because when it comes down to it, grab me an awesome Photoshop expert and I could be on the next cover.

Now go watch the 2014 CrossFit Games. Last time I checked, Photoshop won’t help you complete 50 burpee over bars or three muscle-ups after a 300-yard swim.

“A number of women see beauty as a number on a scale or a jean size,” said Anne DeMartini, trainer at Driv Fitness and a Flagler College professor. “CrossFit is helping to reshape the entire perception of beauty. Beauty lies in strength, and in power and in confidence.”

These are the women that taught me that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and that having muscle doesn’t make you manly. These are the women that taught me to set goals and surpass them and push that barbell over your head when every muscle in your body is telling you to quit. These are the women who finally got me to think, “so what if my thighs touch.”


We live in a world of skinny jeans and “hotdog legs.” What is that anyway? Why is it that a woman with lats and shoulders, a woman who can clean and jerk and snatch, and throw in an occasional grunt isn’t beautiful? These characteristics rival that of what most would consider femininity.

But, my eyes have been opened.

I’m 22 years old now. Seven years ago, an image was plastered in my head of what I thought I looked like. Today, I realize how much of a disservice I was doing myself.

My legs — the legs I’ve been hiding, the legs I’ve been so embarrassed about – help me jump over boxes and flip tires. They help me pick up hundreds of pounds and push it above my head. They help me climb, sprint, squat. They help me fall and they help me get back up.

My legs are my pride. They have bruises from one too many cleans and I’ve come to the realization that my thighs will always touch. I’m OK with that.

So yeah, I guess my high school track coach was right. Maybe these big legs did come in handy.

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